Syracuse’s tournament chances take major hit with 85-70 loss at Boston College

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ UPDATED: March 1, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Two days ago, Boston College head coach Jim Christian shared a revelation that has defined Syracuse throughout the season: The SU offense relies almost exclusively on one-on-one matchups.That has been the case in nearly every game this season, whether in SU’s notable wins (at Miami, at Louisville) or in its 12 losses. It’s been the case all season, save for a handful of games including SU’s 18-point victory over the Eagles last month, so Christian ensured it wouldn’t be the case again. His BC (17-13, 7-10 Atlantic Coast) team forced SU into a singular offense that doomed itself, emblematic of a larger theme core to Syracuse (18-12, 7-10). Offensive one-dimensionality has largely plagued the Orange this season, just as it did Wednesday night in an 85-70 loss to the Eagles — detrimental to Syracuse’s NCAA Tournament chances.According to ESPN, Syracuse had a better-than-50-percent chance to make the NCAA Tournament with a win at BC, and less than a 20 percent chance with a loss. What was already growing apparent became clear on Wednesday night: It is exceedingly likely that Syracuse will not play in the Big Dance for the third time over the past four seasons.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“This,” a soft-spoken head coach Jim Boeheim said, “is a tough one.”Boston College forced SU into its offensive identity, to create one-on-one offense and only one-on-one offense. The result was a Syracuse team reliant on sophomore guard Tyus Battle, who scored a game-high 29 points. And a torrid Boston College 3-point shooting display (14-for-27), haunted Syracuse for its fourth loss in its past five games.The unranked-Eagles had lost three consecutive games, and they lost at Syracuse a month ago, 81-63 — SU’s largest margin of victory in conference play this season. The Orange entered the game needing, in almost every sense of the word, a win against a plunging BC team that beat then-No. 1 Duke earlier in the season on the same floor.But riding only Battle, with help from Frank Howard (17 points) and Oshae Brissett (18), Syracuse couldn’t apply much-needed padding to its NCAA Tournament resume before its final game of the regular season, Saturday afternoon against No. 18 Clemson. Then the Barclays Center, home of the conference tournament next week, is the last proving ground for SU to make its case to the NCAA selection committee. The Orange has lost three straight ACC tournament games, though, and the odds are pointing against SU.“It’s not even pressure,” Battle said. “You just gotta win.”BC carved up the SU zone as well as any team this season, clinically moving the ball through the high post, baseline runner and spotted-up shooters to produce open shots. Boeheim said last month that Boston College is one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country, and the Eagles validated his point in full.SU’s responses were not infrequent, but they did not last long. The Orange went on a 13-6 run at the end of the first half that provided a sense of hope. Boeheim appeared encouraged as the Orange headed to the locker room, clapping his hands forcefully. During the break, he emphasized replicating that spurt for the final 20 minutes, Brissett said. But only three SU players had scored in the frame. It was the usual suspects in Howard, Brissett and Battle. Midway through the second half, Battle had 24 of SU’s 48 points. A fourth Syracuse player didn’t score until a Paschal Chukwu dunk more than four minutes into the second half.Oftentimes, the Syracuse offense went something like this: Chukwu flashed to set a high-ball screen for Howard or Battle up top. Or SU’s backcourt duo played a two-man game, passing the ball back and forth with not much purpose. Or Brissett tried to work himself into the lane, often contested. That’s because, Boeheim pointed out, teams sag off Marek Dolezaj and Chukwu, well aware neither contributes to the offense.“We’re just limited,” Boeheim said. “I think people think that these guys can score. Matt(hew) (Moyer), Marek and Paschal. They can’t. They pick up a bucket here or there, but they cannot score. That puts huge pressure on the other three guys.”That pressure was apparent throughout. As Syracuse appeared to make a run in the second half, Battle clanked a fadeaway in isolation. Brissett forced a fadeaway jumper because nothing else was there. A few possessions later, Howard did what Syracuse has been prone to do this season. With few other options, he tried to get to the basket on a basic right-handed dribble drive, but he missed the contested running layup. BC, meanwhile, charged down the court to produce a kick-out 3-pointer for Chatman. It swished through the net, forcing Boeheim to call a timeout.Boston College did not look back.“Very slim,” Brissett said of SU’s margin for error moving forward.Nearly a year ago, the Orange lost in the second round of the NIT, dropping its most games in a season (15) since 1968-69. This year, the Orange has lost three fewer games so far, and while there are no “bad” losses on its resume, they have stacked up, one after the other, to push SU’s NCAA Tournament hopes further and further from its grasp.CORRECTION: In a previous version of this post, Jim Christian was misnamed. The Daily Orange regrets this error. Comments Published on February 28, 2018 at 11:21 pm Contact Matthew: mguti100@syr.edu | @MatthewGut21last_img

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